National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
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Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

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             HANS LIST                                                165
                                   HANS LIST
                                BY GORDON H.MILLAR
                IN SEPTEMBER OF 1996, DR. HANS LIST, elected as a foreign associate
            of the National Academy of Engineering in 1989, died at age 100. At the time of
            his passing, he was the only member of the Academy of that mature age. Dr. List
            was born on April 30, 1896, in the year when Rudolf Diesel presented his plans
            for a new internal combustion engine that was then named after him.
                As a boy Hans List showed a great promise as a musician and could easily
            have pursued a career in music as an accomplished artist on both the piano and
            the cello. His technical instincts, however, were far too strong and he gave up a
            promising career in music to pursue engineering and science.
                While working on new diesel engine technology in the Johann Weitzer
            Wagon and Machine factory, List wrote his doctoral dissertation on “The
            Regulation of Diesel Engines.” It was quite unusual in those days that someone
            would write a thesis without academic supervision, especially since he had used
            mathematical methods that could not be verified with a slide rule. His thesis had
            to be given to a very strict mathematician but was approved with excellent
            results. It was rather typical for Hans List that one day in 1924, he asked his
            parents to come to a ceremony at the Technical University in which, to his
            parents’ surprise, he was awarded a Ph.D.
                In the late 1920s, List saw an ad in a German technical journal for a lecturer
            in internal combustion engines at a Chinese university. He applied and shortly
            moved to China, an adventur
             HANS LIST                                                166
             ous undertaking. The Tongji University in Woosung near Shanghai had been
             founded by Germans, and the language of instruction was German. The engine
             laboratory was well equipped, and List could conduct a number of experiments
             and tests. He witnessed the Chinese Civil War, the conflict between the North and
             South, and the growing tension between China and Japan.
                After six years, Hans List was offered a professorship at the Department of
             Thermodynamics and Internal Combustion Engines at the Technical University
             of Graz, Austria, and he accepted. During the following years, he worked
             together with his assistants who later became colleagues in his engineering office
             on diesel engines and the gasification of solid fuels. During that time he also
             started work on the publication of a 14-volume standard reference work, The
             International Combustion Engines. Its updated version is still the basic course
             book for mechanical engineering students in Europe. His last volume was
             published in April 1996.
                The research facilities in Graz were modest. Therefore, Hans List responded
             to an invitation to succeed the famous Professor Naegel, an acknowledged master
             of diesel engine research at the Technical University of Dresden. Apart from
             teaching, Professor List carried out research on the construction of aircraft
             engines and published numerous papers. He set up an office in Vilsiburg,
             Bavaria, and cooperated with well-known companies, such as Daimler-Benz and
             Bayrische Motorenwerke. After eyewitnessing the horrible air raid that devastated
             Dresden, Hans List moved to Vilsiburg where he continued his research on piston
             engines and aircraft turbines.
                After World War II, List returned to Graz and founded an engineering
             office—AVL—together with four of his former colleagues from the Technical
             University of Graz. He received financial assistance from the Marshall Plan and
             was able to expand his business. List paid back the Marshall Plan loan in full not
             many years after starting his company. Few loan recipients did this well. His first
             big contract with the Jenbacher Werke provided the financial background for the
             further development of his company. In the years that followed, the rapidly
             expanding and practice-oriented research institute designed and devel
             HANS LIST                                                167
             oped numerous engines for tractors, trains, vessels, and aircraft. Today the
             company has business relationships with most automobile manufacturers of the
                In the 1960s Hans List planned and built an engine factory in Egypt. The
             factory was completed in less than three years and still exists today. A similar
             concept was developed for a factory in Korea. He continued throughout his
             career to build international business relationships overseas and in many
             European countries.
                It was clear to Hans List that, in the future, improvements would be
             necessary and environmental constraints would be placed on engines. One
             problem was noise, and Professor List set out to find ways to reduce noise. Over
             the years, AVL branched out into other important fields: instrumentation and
             engine testing. Today AVL is not only a leader in engine testing and engine test
             equipment, but has also specialized in the field of medical instruments. Ninety-
             eight percent of AVL equipment is produced for export. To comply with the
             ever-increasing environmental requirements, AVL has concentrated its work on
             meeting the strictest emission requirements and has become a highly regarded
             specialist in this field.
                Hans List managed his privately owned research institute for many years,
             and in 1979 handed over management to his son, Helmut. He had visions of the
             future throughout his life and was able to realize many of his ideas. He was an
             example to his staff for living what he said and thought and was an example of
             self-discipline and willpower. Even at the age of 100, he came to his office daily,
             climbed the stairs to the second floor, and spent his days thinking of how to
             improve the diesel engine, a model of which he kept on his desk. He registered
             his latest patent at age ninety-eight, a record that was entered in the Guinness
             Bookof Records. Dr. List was awarded an astonishing 364 patents.
                Hans List set an example by establishing a business in the second half of his
             life, at an age when many people can think only of retirement. Those who spoke
             of him did so in respectful, admiring terms. Attendees to the company ball held in
             his honor on June 14, 1996, were impressed when he opened the gala waltzing
             with Kathryn Millar List, his daughter-in-law.
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